Psychology Courses: The 6 Major Branches to Specialise in

As the study of human behaviour and the mind, Psychology offers important insights into why we behave the way we do. In our everyday lives, we apply psychological concepts in everything from dating apps and marketing campaigns to political rallies and personal growth.

Psychology is a vast field: to help you find out what you may be interested in, we’ll introduce you to six major branches below. Please note that this is merely a tasting menu and a non-exhaustive list! There are many other sub-fields you can explore.

1) Clinical Health Psychology

Clinical psychology focuses on assessing and diagnosing mental health conditions or disorders, as well as therapy and treatment via psychotherapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Clinical psychologists often work in tandem with psychiatrists in the medical setting to provide patients with quality care! In addition, experienced clinical psychologists can choose to specialise in different areas: eating disorders, mood disorders, addiction and more.

2) Industrial-Organisational Psychology

Also known as work psychology, occupational psychology or business psychology, industrial-organisational psychology revolves around the scientific study of human behaviour, as well as the application of psychological principles in organisations and workplaces.

This branch of psychology has been growing in recent years as more leaders realise how conducive work environments are instrumental to organisational success. Graduates specialising in this branch can apply their knowledge in research, ergonomics, employee satisfaction, employee training and development, staff selection and appraisal and more.

3) Forensic Psychology

Made popular by TV Crime shows, forensic psychology is often oversubscribed in universities that offer it.

In the words of the American Psychological Association, this branch of psychology entails “the application of clinical specialities to the legal arena[i]”. Forensic psychologists work on helping relevant parties understand what motivates criminals’ behaviour, but they also do more than that! They could also be working in correctional facilities offering to counsel, helping to design and run treatment programmes that reduce recidivism (re-offending) rates, or conducting research.

4) Counselling Psychology

Here’s a fun fact: while counselling psychologists and counsellors seem like interchangeable terms for the same career, they’re not! You will need a graduate applied psychology programme qualification to register with the Singapore Psychological Society (SPS)[i], while counsellors are expected to have postgraduate-level counselling training to register with the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC)[ii].

Counselling psychologists also tend to take on more serious cases than counsellors due to their background in psychology—think domestic abuse, for example—and see their patients for longer.

Counselling psychologists can be found in both public institutions like family service centres and nursing homes, as well as private practices. They can also be found in research and academia.

5) Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology looks at human growth and development throughout our lifespan, from birth to old age, physically, cognitively and social-emotionally. Developmental psychology has numerous practical applications across a wide range of fields, which includes early childhood education and marketing.

Individuals who choose to major in developmental psychology can go on to become caseworkers, behavioural therapists and more.

If you’re curious about this branch of psychology, why not read up on the five major theories of development? These include Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory of Human Development, which proposes that our personalities develop throughout our lives across eight chronological developmental stages, and John Bowlby’s attachment theory.

6) Sports Psychology

Last but not least, we have sports psychology!

A hybrid field that draws on psychology, sports science and medicine, sports psychology looks at how psychological factors can affect and enhance athletes’ well-being and performances. It also explores how sports professionals can apply psychological knowledge in sports organisations or coaching practices.

While sports psychology is considered contemporary—it was only formally recognised as a proficiency by the American Psychological Association in 2003—this field has been around since the late 1800s[i].

Sports psychologists are instrumental to an athlete’s success, as several top-performing athletes can attest[iii]! The professional tennis player Iga Swiatek, who won her first Grand Slam singles title during the French Open at just 19 years old, has said that she owes part of her success to Daria Abramowicz, her sports psychologist[iv].

To become a sports psychologist in Singapore and most parts of the world, you’ll need a degree qualification in Psychology (or a related degree) as well as a postgraduate qualification in sports psychology. You should also be eligible for registration with a recognised psychological society.

To recap, we’ve covered sports psychology, developmental psychology, counselling psychology, forensic psychology, industrial-organisation psychology and clinical psychology. Did you find any of these branches right up your alley or spot one that will add value to your career?

If your answer is yes, we’d like to share that MDIS currently offers a Higher Diploma in Psychology that will touch upon some of these very branches! Ten months long full-time and fourteen months long part-time, the MDIS Higher Diploma in Psychology covers topics such as Organisational Psychology and Group Dynamics.

Upon completing the diploma, you can matriculate as a final-year student* of the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Psychological and Behavioural Science awarded by the University of Roehampton, UK! You’ll then be one step closer to becoming a full-fledged psychologist if that is your goal.

If you have no prior experience or knowledge in psychology but have a Nitec or ‘O’-level qualification, don’t worry! You can consider starting with the International Foundation Diploma in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Art before transitioning to the MDIS Higher Diploma in Psychology.

Are there any other psychology branches you’d like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments or drop us an email—so that we can plan part two. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

*Upon completing bridging modules





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